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Purdue rallies to beat Tennessee in OT in Music City Bowl

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NASHVILLE (Purdue Sports) — An overtime goal line stand by the defense, followed by a 39-yard game-winning field goal by Mitchell Fineran lifted the Purdue football team to a 48-45 win over Tennessee in the 2021 TransPerfect Music City Bowl. In the highest scoring game in Music City Bowl history, the Boilermakers picked up their 11th bowl win behind 627 yards of total offense, including 534 in the air, a program best in a bowl.

After winning the toss in overtime, Jamari Brown and Kieran Douglas held Tennessee running back Jaylen Wright short of the goal line by mere inches on 4th-and-goal, keeping the Volunteers off the board on their overtime possession. Purdue then set up Fineran just inside the right hash for a 39-yard kick down the middle. The kicker went 4-for-4 on field goal attempts.

With the win, Purdue ends the 2021 campaign with a 9-4 record, the most victories in a season since 2003.

Purdue quarterback Aidan O'Connell threw for a program bowl record 534 yards and five touchdowns. The performance was O'Connell's sixth 300-yard passing game of the season and his fifth consecutive game with at least three passing touchdowns. The Long Grove, Ill., native became just the second Boilermaker in history to have multiple 500-yard games, joining Drew Brees. Completing 26-of-47 through the air, the fifth-year senior set a new school record for completion percentage in a single season 71.6%.

Broc Thompson hauled in seven catches for a career-high 217 yards, stepping up with the absence of consensus All-American David Bell to earn TransPerfect Music City Bowl Most Valuable Player honors.

The Volunteers struck first on their opening drive, but their lead did not last long as O'Connell found Thompson on a deep ball to start Purdue's second drive. The 75-yard touchdown was the Boilermakers' longest of the season and knotted the contest up at 7-7. Tennessee connected on a long pass of its own, using a 61-yard touchdown to grab the lead back before another score doubled their lead after one quarter of play.

Purdue dominated the second quarter, outscoring Tennessee 16-0. The Boilermakers scored on four of their five drives during the 15 minutes, starting with a trio of field goals from Mitchell Fineran. With less than one minute to go in the half, DaMarcus Mitchell stripped Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker and Prince James Boyd Jr. jumped on the loose ball. Two plays later, O'Connell rolled out of the pocket to find a wide open Payne Durham in the end zone. Flipping the game in their favor, the Boilermakers went into the locker room with the lead, 23-21.

Getting the ball to start the second half, Tennessee found the end zone before the Boilermakers countered with a touchdown of their own. On the 10th play of the drive, O'Connell dropped a perfect pass into the back corner of the end zone to TJ Sheffield. The sophomore wide receiver did the rest, making an impressive over-the-shoulder catch to put Purdue back in front 30-28. A Volunteer field goal made it a 31-30 game in favor of the opposition heading into the fourth quarter.

Both high-tempo offenses found another level in the fourth quarter. O'Connell hit Durham on a crossing route that turned into a 62-yard touchdown catch after the tight end spun away from several would-be tacklers. After Tennessee marched back to tie the game at 27-27 with 3:37 to play, O'Connell found Thompson again, this time, for a 70-yard run-and-catch for a score. The Volunteers matched the punch with a two-yard scoring catch with 1:35 to play.

Tennessee had a chance to win the game as time expired in regulation, but Chase McGrath's 56-yard effort fell short and right of the uprights.

In overtime, Purdue elected to go on defense. Tennessee chose to forgo a 34-yard field goal and converted a 4th-and-2. Five plays later from the Purdue one-yard line, Brown and Douglas stonewalled Wright's run less than a foot away from the end zone.

On Purdue's only drive in overtime, O'Connell kept the offense near the middle of the field to set up Fineran's game-winning effort from 39-yards.


• Purdue ends the season with a 9-4 record, the most wins in a season since 2003.

• The 2021 Boilermakers tie for the second-most wins in program history, while becoming the 12th team in the program's 134-year history to record nine wins in a season.

• Purdue won its fifth game away from home, accomplishing the feat for the first time since 1943.

• A victory was Purdue's first in a bowl since a 38-35 win over Arizona in the 2017 Foster Farms Bowl, Jeff Brohm's first season guiding the Boilermakers.

• Purdue quarterbacks have completed a school-record 407 passes this season, surpassing the previous program mark of 377 set in 1998 led by Drew Brees (361).


• Purdue ending the season averaging 355.4 passing yards per game, besting the 341.8 mark set in 1985.

• The Boilermakers completed 407 passes on the season, snapping the previous school record (377) set in 1998.

• Purdue threw for 4,620 throughout the 2021 campaign, eclipsing another 1998 record (4,208).

• The Boilermakers finished the year with 219 passing first downs, surpassing 204 from the 1998 season.

• QB Aidan O'Connell set a new school record for completion percentage 71.6% easily eclipsing David Bough's previous mark of 66.0 percent in 2018.


• The fifth-year senior, who has already announced that he'll return for a sixth year, threw for 534 yards; it was his sixth 300-yard game of the season, the third-most 300-yard games in school history and the most since Curtis Painter (2007).

• O'Connell is just the second Boilermaker with multiple 500-yard games in a career, joining Drew Brees.

• O'Connell threw five touchdown passes, his fifth consecutive game with at least three touchdowns through the air, he fell short of the single-game Purdue record by one.

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